Toni Segarra is Co-Founder and Executive Creative Director of *S,C,P,F.. (Note the punctuation curious: the four letters in *S,C,P,F.. stand for the agency's founders; the three dots signify the rest of the shop). Recently, *S,C,P,F.. won the most awards of any agency in the Spanish equivalent of the One Show, the Club de Creativos. The beneficiaries of their exceptional creative work included BMW, Ikea, Hacienda Benazuza and PHotoEspana.

Segarra began his advertising career at Vinizius, a small professional studio he founded with his brother. His first big agency stop was at Vizeversa. Other posts included Creative Director at Contrapunto/Madrid, Founding Partner of Casadevall Pedre'o SPR, and head of the creative department at Delvico Bates, which, after he arrived, won the highest number of awards that a Spanish agency had ever received in one year. Segarra has also been a jury member at national and international festivals, including Cannes. Recently, one's Tiffany Meyers caught up with Segarra to find out about the creative scene in Spain's advertising industry.

Is there a distinctly Spanish style of advertising? If so, what are its features?
I don't think there is such a thing as a Spanish style of advertising. In my opinion, that's one of our industry's main weaknesses. Spain is a country with strong cultural traditions, but I don't see much of an effort to incorporate that into our work. When it comes to creative, we tend to look abroad, and to take on styles that are universal and western (in the Anglo-Saxon sense of the word).

I also believe that agencies all over the world are influenced by the 'international style' generated by the festivals. In the end, these festivals are the trend generators, which makes the agencies imitating them a little bit behind the times.

With some obvious exceptions, *S,C,P,F... among them, the advertising industries in Spain, Italy, and France are not noted for the same creative innovation as is evident, for example, in their film industries. Can you comment on why?
Well, Spain, for instance, does produce a few dozen good ads for television and print every year. But in general we all continue to suffer from a lack of truly great ideas. As I said, I believe we're just following that international current found at the festivals (which right now means work that uses a lot of realism).

European advertising and media, echoing European culture, is more risqu, than American advertising, especially in terms of its approach to sex. As the world becomes smaller, do you see that changing? And do you see Spanish ads influencing other countries?
I don't think Spain has influenced other countries to any great extent. Spanish agencies, generally speaking, are followers of trends, not generators of them. The Anglo-Saxon influence, however, has been in Spain for quite some time. For years Spanish agencies have been trying 'ineffectively' to create spots in the style of Cliff Freeman & Partners, the same way that they used to try to copy, without success, Joe Sedelmaier. Scandinavian inscrutability, in the style of Traktor, also has its followers. So, of course, does British subtlety and wit. The problem is not that these styles wouldn't work in Spain. It's that we don't do a good job of imitating them. This is because they're such distinct styles that they defy imitation. By the way, the latest influence to affect Spanish advertising is actually Argentinian. In part this is due to the enormous number of excellent creative who have emigrated here.

How do you account for the exceptions, first and foremost, *S,C,P,F... to the Spanish ad scene, meaning those agencies that manage to do breakthrough work?
I do believe that advertising is one of the most important industries here in terms of creativity, though interestingly, this position doesn't correspond to Spain's economic importance. We're not a fashion powerhouse like Italy or France, we don't have Italy's strong industrial design industry, nor, with the exception of a few truly outstanding architects, do we have a lot of strength in architecture. Which means it's not surprising that we're one of the greatest sources of talent in other disciplines. For example, two of the best Spanish films in the last year have been the work of advertising directors: Julio Wallovits and Roger Gual with 'Smoking Room,' and Isabel Coixet with 'My Life Without Me.'

Which Spanish agencies do you feel are currently generating exceptional work?

*S,C,P,F... does always try to produce work that is different, and I'm grateful that this is recognized in the market. I do feel there are a number of agencies in Spain doing excellent work. Some examples are Vitruvio Leo Burnett, Remo Asatsu, Sra. Rushmore, Tandem DDB, Saatchi & Saatchi, and even McCann. Also, a fair number of interesting projects are coming out of companies like Hormigas, The Farm, Dayax, Villar Ros's, Kitchen and Small. In fact, I'm very optimistic about the fresh air these companies can bring to the Spanish panorama.

The work coming out of Dimension and FCB Tapsa are also commendable. Dimension's office is in San Sebastian, a provincial capital well away from any big company's decision-making center, yet it won the Gran Prix for TV last year. This year, it's competing with one of the best ads of the year, a spot for sportswear line the Bilbao Athletic Football Club.

Spain, fortunately, is much more than *S,C,P,F...

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